December brings my favorite day of the year. A day I look forward to so much that I can’t sleep. When that joyful morning arrives, I’m usually up before dawn, caught up in the magic of this time of year. If you’re like me, I know you’re looking forward to it too, and you’ve probably guessed that I’m not speaking of the joy of Christmas morning. The most wonderful time of the year for me and most of my light tackle friends is the opening of catch & release season. It started last week in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Gone are the fair-weather boaters with their blaring boom boxes. No more trollers claiming quarter-mile planer board right-of-ways, or obnoxious VHF broadcasters insulting everyone within 50 miles.  Catch & release season is the time of year when the one-man-one-rod concept reigns supreme.  It’s when you can run on-plane for miles in the wide-open Bay and never see another fishing boat.  A time when there’s very little competition for prime fishing spots, and a small but tight fraternity of hard-core fishermen brave the elements to jig the cold-weather hotspots.  Now that I think about it, it’s better than Christmas!

The start of this year’s catch & release season has been hectic for me since I have to balance my work responsibilities with the release of my book.  Distribution has been early morning or late night affairs.  We’ve pulled a few all-nighters, but thanks to the help of my wife and some good friends, we’ve managed to get about a thousand pre-release copies out. We haven’t flooded the market by any means, but I kept my 2011 New Year’s resolution, and Chesapeake Light Tackle – The Book is now available.

My goal for December is to provide high quality editions of the book to my fishing friends, and to those who keep up with my reports on the internet.  As advertised, our pre-release editions have included about 20 color photos along with higher quality paper and a thick durable cover.  We sell the majority of books through the Buy It Now link here on, but we’ve also managed to get a few in some local tackle stores and bait shops.  My favorite way of selling the book has been right off my front porch.

Once this batch is gone, we will switch over to the release edition. Books are expensive to print, and the online booksellers and brick-and-mortar stores usually need 50 or 60% off the retail price in order to cover their overhead. In order to meet that need, we have to reduce our costs. The biggest difference is that the official release version contains all high-resolution gray scale photos – same stories, same tips, same exact word count.  I still have enough pre-release books to last for a while. If you want one, you might want to order in the next week or so. I also need help with distribution, so please drop me a line if you know of some tackle stores, bait shops, or book stores that might want to carry it.

If you’d rather buy a pre-release edition of the book from a local retailer, you have some options.  Marty’s Bait & Tackle in Edgewater has them.  So does AllTackle in Annapolis and Tochterman’s in Baltimore.  I’ll be at Tochterman’s on December 29th to sign some books and hopefully catch up with some old friends and make some new ones.  I’m also looking forward to catching up with Tony, Dee, and Rich and seeing their new fly tying department.  Plans are in the works for other stores as well.

Fishing? Ah yes – it’s one thing to write about it, but something else entirely to do it.  Since water temperatures are holding around 50-degrees in the Bay, there are still multiple opportunities for catching stripers.  A few anglers are fishing the mouth of the Choptank River and catching on the deeper ledges.  There are even some reports of breaking fish between Sharps and James Islands, and more breakers on the ledges on both the Bay and Tangier sides of Smith Island.  The Bay Bridge remains productive and there are a few bigger fish at the Kent Island Sewer Pipe for those who are patient enough to stay with them. The bridges on the back side of Kent Island are holding fish as well, and there are reports of stripers in some of the upper Bay rivers.  A few fishermen have started working the warm water discharges, but there are plenty of fish in easier-to-get-to places.

If you’re up for traveling, I’ve heard good reports of big schooling fish all up and down the Delmarva coast.  Some of the big-fish-schools are just off the beaches. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is better now than it’s been yet, and it promises to keep improving as more migrating fish flood in.

My buddy Joe Yack has been testing the waters around the mouth of the Susquehanna River for yellow perch and turning up a few on minnows.  He tells me it’s just a matter of time before artificial lures will out-produce live bait. If you missed the yellow perch fun last winter I hope you can get in on it this year. I’m hoping to make a run up that way next week, and I might manage another trip to the bridge tunnel if things go well.

In addition to good fishing, the holidays also provide us with time to spend with friends and family. I’ll be enjoying a lot of that over the next couple of weeks, and I hope you will too. I also hope you get some time in on the water this catch & release season.  Here’s a light tackle clink of the glass to all my friends and fishing partners with my best wishes for many sugar plum trophies in 2012.



Posted Friday, December 23rd, 2011 at 9:00 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “Visions of Sugar Plums”

  1. Doug M says:

    Shawn, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, thanks for a year of good reading and sharing your know how with us beginners. Santa’s brining me a copy of your book for Christmas. I hope to get to meet you at Tochterman’s


  2. RogerT says:

    Shawn,couldn’t agree more about fishing this time of yr.Its like having the whole bay to yourself.

    Merry X-mas and a happy new you and your family.Hope 2012 brings you many big fish!

  3. Blue Marlin says:

    I troll sometimes, but I agree with you about the quarter mile right or ways. There should be some kind of limit. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight.

  4. JOE YACK says:

    Hey man… Merry Christmas! I’ll keep you posted on the yellow ones… soon it will be real good… Thanks for another nice read…

  5. Bill M says:

    I’m glad you’re finding some time to wet a line between real life and keeping up with the demand to get your book out. Followed your trip to the tunnel and was hoping to get there myself but it didn’t work out. Hopefully in January! I want to get on those YP too!

    Hope to see you on the water.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. God Bless!

    Bill M

  6. Ed Siegel says:

    Just finished the first reading of your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now to go back and mark it up with a pen and highlighter! The picture above kinda looks like you’re trolling from the sled, but having read your book I know better. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and yours.

    Ed S.

  7. Wen says:

    Just ordered my Christmas present to me !Can’t wait to get all the numbers of your honey holes !!!
    Ha,Ha !
    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  8. chris says:

    hey shawn, i have read your reports weekly all year. ive enjoyed every post and they are always very knowledgeable.i live in solomons and fish the powerplant often. got a few nice ones this year there but nothing in the 40s. i am in the process of reading your book and hopefully finding tips to getting those cows. hope to see you at the plant sometime.

  9. Bob Garvey says:

    Shawn, Just finished your book and wanted to say thanks for a great read. Now on to the catch & release season!!

  10. Gitzit 2 says:

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Shawn
    here’s to the 2012 C&R season fixin’ what ails ya!
    Hope to se you at Tochterman’s.

  11. Bob says:

    Just started reading your website this year,and have thoroughly enjoyed it.Released a 48″fish couple weeks ago I wont say how I caught it.(t word)felt really good released a 42″ also.looking forward to the new year.Hope you and yours has a great one.good luck with the book

  12. Shawn says:

    Thanks for the release, Bob!

  13. Youssef says:

    Thanks a million for all the great post. Chris, where do you keep your boat in Solomons. I took my boat there about a year ago now, started fishing the power plant since February last year. Have you had luck elsewhere?

  14. chris says:

    youssef, i keep my boat on the trailer at my house. its just an 18ft center console. i had an amazing fishing season this year. the best ive ever had. i have alot of luck off of cove point, around the gas docks (depending on the time of year depends on to which side of the docks) and alot of luck jigging for stripers off of cedar point. i only fish the plant early year when its freezing out

  15. Youssef says:

    I keep mine in a marina as I live in NOVA. it’s a 21ft walkaround. I was out Saturday, a bit windy but had power plant almost to myself. Only enjoyed gas docks a select few weekdays last summer where I spot live lined, other than that weekends were crazy up there with 40+ boats I am sure you seen it… Decided to take boat out in July for paint and maintenance and put it back in late September. Just bought a set of downrigers to try my luck at trolling maybe early spring. Shoot me an email sometimes, we can fish together wherever the fish are
    Happy new years.

  16. chris says:

    youssef, happy new year to you as well. did you have any luck at the plant on saturday? yea during the nicer months the gas docks get way over crowded. i did really well catching fish on the outskirts of all the crowds instead of joining in on the mayhem. im hoping to make it out to the plant soon on a nice day sometime.

  17. Youssef says:

    Plenty of luck last Saturday at the plant. The 2 or 3 boats that were there were not drifting with the current but were casting straight at the discharge, not sure how well they did. I caught most of mine in the middle section of the current jigging with a white and blue bucktail. Lots of action largest fish neared 21inch. So far this year and last winter, the trip to the power plant always paid off.

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